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her calm, innocent bed, and gazing, too, into this white light, and
longing for me. Surely she would be that? The words of her letter came
back to me: the time would pass "slowly as a winter night to me, your
Viola."

She was right. Nothing could divide us permanently, really. Perhaps
even Death would be powerless to do that.

I had a dissatisfied feeling with myself. Would it have been better, I
asked myself, to have waited through this year alone, since nothing
could really satisfy or delight me in her absence? What was the good,
after all, of chasing the mere shadow of the joy I had with her?

But, strangely enough, I felt that Viola had no wish that I should
pass this mysterious year of separation she had imposed upon us,
alone.

She had confessed her inability to share my love with any other. The
incident of Veronica had made that clear; but now that she chose to
deny herself to me she seemed rather to wish than otherwise that I
should seek adventures, experiences elsewhere. And I felt
indefinitely, yet strongly, that the more I could crush into this year
of life and of artistic inspiration, especially the latter, the
happier she would feel when we met.

Perhaps she wished to tire me with lesser loves, certain that her own
must prevail against them. Perhaps she had even left me solely for
this, with this idea. Knowing herself unable to bear the pain of
infidelity to her when she was present, yet, accepting it as tending
to some ultimate psychological end, she had withdrawn herself from me.

I remembered she had said once to me:

"I would so much rather be a man's last love, the crowning love of
his life, the one whose image would be with him as he passed from this
world, than his first; poor little toy of his youth, forgotten,
unheeded, effaced by the passions of his life at the zenith."

Perhaps, ... but, ah! what was the use of speculation when it might
all be wrong?

Some reason was there, guiding that subtle mystery of her brain, and
I, if I fulfilled her expressed wishes, was doing the utmost to carry
out that plan of hers which I could not yet understand.

A feeling of excessive weariness invaded me, mental and physical, and
as the light grew stronger, breaking into day, I went to my own room
to sleep.

As soon as I woke I got up and went to look at my new possession. To
my surprise the room seemed empty. I looked round. No Suzee. I went up
to the bed. It had apparently not been slept in, but two of the
blankets had been pulled off and disappeared.

As I stood by the bedside, wondering what had become of her, I felt a
soft kiss on my ankles and, looking down, there she was, creeping out
from under the bed with one of the blankets round her. Her hair was a
lovely undisarranged mass; but the rosebuds in it were dead, and it
was dusty. Her face looked like white silk in its youthful pallor. She
smiled up delightedly at me and crawled out farther from the bed
valance.

"What are you doing down there?" I asked. "Wasn't the bed
comfortable?"

"Oh yes, Treevor, underneath I was very comfortable and warm. You see,
I have always been accustomed to something over my head, and in this
room the ceiling is such a long way off."

She got up and stood before me, her rounded shoulders and sweetly
moulded arms shewing above the blanket.

"You don't mind, do you?" she added, with a note of quick anxiety.

I laughed as I remembered the low ceilings, almost on one's head, that
are the rule in Chinatown, and caught her up in my arms.

"No, I don't mind," I said; "only get into bed now, and don't shew
that you have slept underneath instead of inside. I am going to order
breakfast and I will call you in a minute or two."

I threw her on to the bed, into which she rolled like a kitten, kissed
her, and went back to my own room.

When we had had breakfast I took Suzee with me on the car, and all the
eyes of its occupants fixed upon us for the whole of the journey. This
was harmless, however, and I did not mind, while Suzee sat apparently
sublimely unconscious of the rude stares and ruder smiles, with the
calm gravity of the Oriental who is above insults because he considers
himself above criticism.

At the office where I went to buy tickets for our journey I was put to
worse annoyance. I had taken tickets for two from 'Frisco to City of
Mexico when the clerk, looking suddenly from me to my childish
companion, said: "We can't give you a section,[A] sir."

"Why not?" I demanded.

"Only married couples," he remarked tersely, and turned away.

I told Suzee to go outside, and went to another part of the office,
bought my section ticket from another clerk while the first was
engaged, and then joined her. I began to realise that petty
difficulties would line the path the whole way, and I must make some
effort to minimise them.

We went to a café for lunch, and after seating ourselves at a table a
little away from the staring crowd, I said: "I expect it would be
better if we got you some American clothes."

"Very well, Treevor," she returned docilely, and leant her pretty,
round, ivory-hued cheek on her hand as she looked across at me
adoringly. Had I suggested cutting off her head, I believe she would
have looked the same.

"We must try after lunch to get some," I continued. "And don't be too
submissive to me in public. You see, it's not at all the fashion with
us for wives to be that way, and it makes people think you are not
mine."

Suzee laughed gaily: the idea seemed to amuse her.

After lunch we went to one of the large stores, and Suzee, in her
scarlet silk attracted of course general attention. We found, however,
a sensible saleswoman to whom I explained that I wanted a grey
travelling costume, and she and Suzee disappeared from me entirely,
into the fitting-room.

Left alone, I swung myself back on a chair and lapsed into thought.

When Suzee at last came back an exclamation broke from me. She was
spoilt. Lovely as she seemed in her own picturesque clothing, in the
rough grey cloth of hideous Western dress she looked simply a little
guy. Reading my face at a glance, her own clouded instantly, and in
another second she would have thrown herself at my feet had I not
warned her by a look and a gesture not to. I sprang up and turned to
the saleswoman.

"Is this the best, the prettiest costume you have?" I asked.

"Yes, sir. You see it's so difficult to fit the young lady without any
corsets, and she is really so short we have only a few skirts that
will do for her."

I looked at Suzee as she stood before me. The figure, so exquisite in
its lines when unclothed, looked too soft and shapeless under the
cloth coat. She appeared absurdly short, too, beside the American
assistant, who stood at least five feet eleven. I could not bear to
see my little Suzee so disfigured. However, that she looked far more
ordinary could not be disputed. She would attract less attention now,
and that might be an advantage. Her head was still bare and had its
Oriental character, but the colour of her skin against the grey cloth
lost its creaminess that it had possessed above the blue silk jacket.
It now looked merely sallow.

I paid nine guineas for the hideous dress, ordered the silk clothes to
be sent to the hotel, and then we went on to the millinery. Amongst
these frightful edifices my heart sank still more, but I steeled
myself to the ordeal, and, choosing out the simplest grey one I could
find, directed the giggling young shop-assistant to try it on Suzee.

The immense coiffure of shining black hair of the Chinese girl did not
lend itself to any Western hat. Hat and hair together made her head
appear out of proportion to the small, short figure.

At last, in despair, I said:

"You must alter your hair and do it in a different way. Could you take
it down now and roll it up small at the back, do you think?"

Suzee gazed on me in mild surprise.

"Take my hair down, here and now! Why, it's done up for a fortnight!"
she answered simply, while the shop-girl turned away to replace a hat
and hide her titters.

"Do you only do your hair once a fortnight?" I enquired, surprised in
my turn.

"Yes, that's all. It's such a bother to do. It was done just before
you came. I thought it would do for a month, I took such pains with
it."

A month! So that beautiful, scented, shining coiffure was only brushed
out once a month!

A sudden memory of Viola and her gleaming light tresses swept over me,
as I had seen them at night lying on her shoulders. But had I not
often waited for her till I was deadly sleepy, and when at length she
came to the bedside and I had asked her what she had been doing all
that time, had she not generally said - "brushing her hair"?

Perhaps, after all, a coiffure that never detained its owner at night
except once a month might have its advantages.

By the time these reflections had swept over me, Suzee herself had
found a little grey velvet hat that looked less dreadful than the
rest. I had only to pay for it, which I did, and she walked away with
me in her Western clothes. At the glove counter things went well, and
she triumphed over her civilised sisters. Her tiny supple hands were
easily fitted by number five, and tired and thirsty with our efforts
we left the store and found our way to a tea-shop.

The change in dress made matters easier. She did not attract much
notice now; and unless any one looked very closely at her, she would
pass for any little ordinary, unattractive European girl. It rather
ruffled my vanity to think she should look like this, but I consoled
myself with thinking of the evening, when the hideous disguise could
be laid aside and she would appear again in her amber beauty and I
could pose her in a hundred ways.

We had several cups of tea apiece. Very good I found it, though Suzee
somewhat disdainfully remarked it was not like China tea; and then
returned to the hotel.

As I passed through the swing doors with my reclothed and much altered
companion, the proprietor came hastily forwards with protestation
written on his face. He evidently thought I had erred again and this
was another investment. He was about to impart vigorously his opinion
of me when a hasty glance at Suzee's face and my bland look of enquiry
stopped him. Instead of addressing us, he wheeled round discomfited
and disappeared into his bureau.

"Why does that man always look so crossly at you?" enquired Suzee, as
we were walking down the passage to our rooms.

"He does not approve of my wickedness in having you here," I answered
laughing. "He thinks a man must never be with any woman but his wife."

"And has he a wife?"

"Yes, that great creature you saw sitting in the glass desk
downstairs."

Suzee threw up her chin and pursed up her soft blue-red lips.

"I know that man by sight quite well. He was always down with the
girls in Chinatown. He was one of Nanine's best customers."

I laughed as I put the key in, and opened our door.

"That accounts then, quite, for his terrific propriety in his hotel,"
I answered. "It's always the way. You can tell the really vicious
person by his affected horror of vice."

We dined upstairs, and directly after dinner I got her to pose for me
that I might catch the first idea for my picture "The Joy of the
East."

She still shewed an apparently unconquerable objection to any undraped
study, so I did not press it, but told her to dress as she had been
dressed the previous night, in blue and mauve with silver ornaments,
and I would take her in that.

While she was arraying herself I sat back in my chair, thinking.

How strange it was that a girl like Viola, who I believed would have
been burnt alive rather than let an untruth pass her lips, who could
not possibly have done a dishonourable action, had posed for me so
simply and fearlessly, viewing the whole matter from that artistic
standpoint which is so lofty because so really pure; and this girl,
whose soul, as I knew, was full of trickery and treachery, and whose
lips were worn with lies, clothed herself about with this ridiculous
prudery and imagined it was modesty!

She came back presently, wonderfully lovely in the bizarre Oriental
costume, and I wanted her to stand on tiptoe, leaning towards me and
laughing.

But she was not a good model; she soon grew tired and failed to keep
the same pose or expression. She fidgeted so, that at last I laid the
paper aside.

"Your expression won't go with that title," I said. "What is the
matter? Can't you stand still and look happy for fifteen minutes?"

"It's so tiring to stand quite still," she said crossly, and my heart
reproached me as I thought of Viola and the hours she had stood for me
without a word of complaint in the London studio!

"Well, I'll try another picture. I shall call it 'The Spoiled
Favourite of the Harem,' Throw yourself into that chair and look as
cross as you like."

Suzee sat down opposite me. I put her head back against the chair; her
right arm hung over the side, in her left hand she held a cigarette,
one foot was bent under her, the other swung listlessly to the ground.

Her expression, restless and dissatisfied, her attitude, weary and
enervated, gave the idea of the title admirably, and I made a good
sketch.

She was sitting down now so she could keep still without much
difficulty, and her air of _ennui_ suited this theme well enough.

As soon as I had finished the sketch and told her she might get up she
was delighted. She did not seem to take much interest in the picture,
however, but rather regard it grudgingly as it took up my attention.
She was only happy again when I took her on my knees and caressed her,
telling her she was the loveliest Eastern I had ever seen.

The following day we started on our journey southward.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote A: Sleeping berth for two persons in the Pullman car.]




CHAPTER X

IN THE SHADOW OF THE VOLCANO


The journey down to the City of Mexico, in itself, was a delight to
me, and I felt how infinitely more I could have enjoyed it had Viola
been with me.

My present companion did not seem able to appreciate any but physical
beauty. If a good looking man came on board the train she glanced over
him, demurely enough, but with the eye of a connoisseur. The glorious
beauty, however, of the painted skies and magnificent stretches of
open country we were passing through affected her not at all.

For four days, on either side of the train, America unrolled before us
her vast tracts of entrancing beauty, from which I could hardly tear
my gaze, and this little almond-eyed doll sat in a lump on the seat
opposite me yawning and fidgeting, or else reading some childish book;
or spent the time at the other end of the car playing with some
American children on board the train.

I did not intend to have my journey spoilt by her, so I gave my own
attention to the scene and told her to go and play, if she wished, or
buy oranges and pictures from the train-venders, do anything she
liked, in fact, as long as she did not disturb me and prevent my
taking a pleasure in the beauty she could not see.

Suzee, annoyed at my admiration of something she could not
appreciate, was mostly sulky and pettish through the day, regaining
her good temper at night when we retired into our section.

As a toy to caress, to fondle, she was enchanting. Nature had
apparently made her for that and for nothing else. Her extreme youth,
her beauty, her joy in love, made her irresistible at such moments.
And as I was young, at the height of youth's powers and desires, our
relations in that way held a great deal of pleasure for us both.

But that was the limit. Beyond this there was nothing.

That exquisite mental companionship, that sharing of every thought and
idea, that constant conversation on all sorts of subjects that
interested us both, all this which I had had with Viola, and which
filled so perfectly those intervals when the tired senses ask for, and
can give, no more pleasure, was completely absent here.

That delight in beauty which is to an artist as much a part of his
life as another man's delight in food or wine Viola had shared with me
in an intense degree.

And sharing any of the delights of life with one we love enhances them
enormously. One can easily imagine a gourmand being dissatisfied with
his wife if she resolutely refused to share any of his meals!

Now, as I gazed through the windows of the slow-moving train and saw
the long blue lines of the level-topped hills, the deep purple edges
of the vast table-lands rising against the amber or the blood red
evening skies, I longed for Viola with that inward longing of the soul
which nothing but the presence of its own companion can satisfy.

One evening, as I gazed out, the whole prairie was bathed in
rose-coloured light that appeared to ripple over it in pink waves. The
tall grass, tall as that of an English hay-field, seemed touched with
fire; far on every side stretched the open plain, absolutely level,
bounded at last in the far distance by that deep purple wall of
mountains, flat-topped, level-lined also, against the sky, the great
mesas or table-lands of Mexico.

And in this vast expanse of waving grasses and low flowering shrubs,
in the pink glow of the evening, stood out two graceful forms, a pair
of coyotes, distinct against the sunset behind them. Only these two
were visible in all that great lonely plain, and they stood together
watching the train go by, their sinuous bodies and low sweeping tails
touched and tipped with fire in the ruby light.

How delighted Viola would have been with that scene, I thought
regretfully, as the train carried us through it.

When we arrived at the City of Mexico, we drove to the Hotel Iturbide
and took a room high up on the third floor, to be well lifted out of
the suffocating atmosphere of the streets.

Suzee was a little overawed by the height of the long, narrow room
that we had assigned to us in this, at one time, palace, but when she
saw that the bed was comfortable and there was a large mirror before
which she could array and re-array herself, she was satisfied.

I saw the room would be a very difficult one to paint in, for it was
dark in spite of the tall window which opened on to an iron balcony
running across the front of the hotel.

The window was draped with thick red curtains and had a deep, handsome
cornice hanging over it.

Suzee went on to the balcony immediately and was delighted with the
incessant stream of gaily dressed people passing underneath. This was
the main street of the city. Not very wide, flanked with lofty, old,
picturesquely built houses on each side, of which the lower part was
often shop or restaurant, it presented somewhat the same heavy, gloomy
appearance as the streets in Italian towns. The air was thick,
dust-laden, and evil-smelling, for the City of Mexico, though at an
elevation of 8,000 feet, has none of the crisp, healthful clearness,
usually to be found at that altitude. Built over the bed of an
enormous dried up lake, in the centre of an elevated table-land, it
is, even at the present day, badly drained and unhealthy.

We had some tea brought up to us and took it at a little table drawn
close to the window, - Suzee chattering away to me of the delights of
this new big city - as big as 'Frisco, she thought. And what gay hats
the women wore! She saw them passing underneath. Would I not take her
out to the shops and buy a great big white muslin hat like theirs,
covered with pink roses?

I promised I would, watching her with a smile.

She was certainly very lovely just now. She seemed to have bloomed
into fairer beauty than she had possessed at Sitka.

Doubtless her gratified passion and happy relations with me helped to
this result, for a woman's beauty depends almost wholly on her inner
life, the life of her emotions and passions.

After tea we went downstairs, hired a carriage, and drove to the
Paseo - or laid-out drive - which is the thing to do in Mexico at that
hour; and to follow the custom of the country you are in is the first
golden rule of the traveller who would enjoy himself.

It was about six o'clock, and darkness was closing in on the thick,
dust-filled air as we drove with the stream of other vehicles of all
descriptions, from the poorest hired carriage to the most splendidly
appointed barouche, into the Paseo, a wide, sweeping drive, lined each
side with trees and lighted with rows of electric arc-light lamps,
some of which glowed pinkly or sputtered out blue rays in the dusk.

It has never seemed to me a very cheerful matter, this drive between
the lights in the formal Paseo, this great string of carriages drawn
mostly by poor unhappy horses and filled with dressed-up women who
stare rudely at each other as they pass and re-pass, solemn and silent
ghosts in a world of grey shadow!

But the fashion amongst the Mexican women of painting and powdering to
an inordinate degree perhaps accounts for their love of this hour
between the lights, when they imagine the falseness of their
complexion cannot be detected.

After about an hour's drive we came back, the great arc-lights now
sending their uncertain, shifting glare across the road and serving to
show the heavy dust through which we moved. Seen sideways, the ray of
light looked solid, so thick was the atmosphere.

When we came back we dined, and then sat outside our window on the
iron balcony, looking down at the gay scene below.

The street was fully lighted now by powerful lamps of electricity,
some belonging to the roadway, others hung out over restaurants and
shops. The latter were all open, having been closed through the middle
of the day. The cafés and restaurants were in full swing, half the
populace seemed in the street, either walking or driving.

"We will go to a theatre as soon as they open," I said. "I don't think
any of them begin till half-past nine or ten."

Suzee clapped her hands.

"That will be nice, Treevor," she said.

"I did like the theatre in Chinatown. I went with Nanine sometimes."

So at half-past nine we drove to a theatre. The performance began at
ten o'clock and continued till one in the morning, with a break in the
middle for supper.

It was a light musical farce, well acted and sung, and I enjoyed it.

Suzee looked on profoundly silent, and seemed to be quite wide-awake
all through it. Just before one o'clock she leant to me and whispered:

"When does the killing begin?"

"Killing?" I returned. "I don't think there'll be any, what do you
mean?"

"Oh," she said, "in Chinese theatres there is always very much
killing; every one's head comes off at the end."

I laughed.

"You little monster," I whispered; "is that what you came to see?"
Suzee nodded.

"All Chinese plays like that," she answered.

We waited till the curtain fell, but there was no killing and all the
heads were left on at the end. Suzee looked quite disappointed, and
explained to me as we were driving away that that was no play at all.

The next morning we were up very late, and after breakfast in our room
there was only time to drive out to the shops and buy for Suzee one of
the hats she coveted before luncheon.

All Orientals have a wonderful, artistic instinct for fabrics and
colours, and always, when left alone, clothe themselves with exquisite
taste. But this instinct seems to desert them when brought amongst
European manufactures and into the sphere of European tints. Suzee now
chose an enormous white hat wreathed round with poppies and
cornflowers that I certainly should not have chosen for her. However,
it pleased and satisfied her, and she was in great good-humour in
consequence.

I found some letters for me at the hotel, forwarded from the club. My
heart sank as I saw there was none from Viola. I thought she might
have written again....

There was one from a friend of mine who was attached to the embassy
here, and he asked me to go and dine with him that evening, or name
some other, if I were engaged that day.

I looked up at Suzee.

"I have an invitation here to go out to dinner," I said to her; "do
you think you can amuse yourself without me this evening?"

Suzee looked sulky.

"You are going out all the evening without me? Can't I come too?"

"I am afraid not," I answered.

"Why? Is it a woman you are going to?"

"No, it is not," I answered a little sharply.

How different this sulky questioning was from Viola's bright way of
assenting to any possible suggestion of mine for my own amusement or
benefit!

How different from this her quick:

"Oh yes, do go, Trevor, do not think about me, I shall be quite happy


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